Statistically, the 2018 was not a good season for the Oregon State defense.
The Beavers ranked 128th out of 129 teams nationally in total defense, giving up 536.8 yards a game.
When looking at key areas, the defensive front is the first to pop up. How the line plays causes a domino effect through the linebackers and defensive backfield.
The Beavers struggled to stop the run and could not create much of a pass rush last season. That led to problems at all levels.
Coach Jonathan Smith and his staff put a lot of effort into recruiting during the offseason to address the defense.
They did not overlook the line.
The interior will have more depth with the additions of transfers Jordan Whittley (6-2, 338) and freshman Evan Bennett (6-2, 279). They join Elu Aydon (6-3, 385).
At defensive end, the Beavers have Jeromy Reichner (6-2, 272), Isaac Hodgins (6-0, 269), Keishon Dawkins (6-5, 289), Isaac Garcia (6-4, 255), LaMone Williams (6-3, 287) and transfer Simon Sandberg (6-3, 265).
“A couple of junior college defensive linemen, we needed help there,” Smith said. “Got it with Jordan Whittley. Had an awesome spring. Got Simon Sandberg who’s going to help us there at D-line.”
Oklahoma transfer Addison Gumbs should bolster the pass rush for the Beavers. Gumbs (6-4, 246) is an outside linebacker who has the ability to line up along the line of scrimmage to get after the quarterback.
Gumbs has been limited since undergoing ACL surgery at the start of the 2018 season, but is rounding into shape and Smith said he should be available by the start of September.
“We’ve got to be able to rush the passer, and I think he’s got that skill set,” Smith said. “I will say I think we’ve got some depth in that room. We played John McCartan and Matthew Tago last year as true freshmen, and they had some ups and downs, did some good stuff. But they’re in year two. They’re going to be better. And then you throw in Gumbs, with Ham (Hamilcar Rashed), Andrzej (Hughes-Murray), so I think we’ve got some depth at the position.”
Rashed finished 2018 with 52 total tackles and led the Beavers with 11.5 stops for loss and had 2.5 sacks. Hughes-Murray had 33 total tackles, 5.5 for loss and three sacks.
Nebraska transfer Avery Roberts should shore up the Beavers’ run defense at inside linebacker. Roberts will be joined by Shemar Smith, who was second in total tackles last season with 85, four for loss with a sack and an interception.
One of the most intriguing areas is found in the defensive backfield, specifically at safety, where David Morris is back after being banged up in 2018.
“We’ve got a lot in the secondary coming back,” Smith said. “David Morris is a guy that’s been injured, played as a true freshman, injured all really last year, coming back healthy.”
Morris and Jalen Moore could become the Pac-12’s premier duo. Moore led the Beavers with 102 total tackles. Not the ideal numbers for a defense, but he’s shown the ability to make stops in space.
Morris started eight games as a freshman in 2017 and quickly showed a knack for getting to the football. He was tied with Moore for second on the team with 75 total stops. Morris also had four tackles for loss.